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Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton is on shore-leave in Japan. He and his buddy Lieutenant Barton, out for a night on the town, stop in at a local establishment to check out the food, drink and ... See full summary »
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Nere-do-well Jerry Corbett finally meets and marries the right girl, Joan Prentiss. Unfortunately their wedded bliss is interrupted when Jerry's play becomes a hit and he hooks up with the wrong woman from his past. Joan decides that turn-about is fair play and she picks another man to escort her around to various parties around New York. Eventually Jerry quits drinking and sends his girlfriend packing, just in time for Joan to take him back. Written by
A wonderful and unsettling pre-Code film about an alcoholic playboy (Fredric March) who marries a sweet young thing (Sylvia Sidney) and proceeds to drag her down his path of dissolution. The depiction of their marriage is quite shocking, even by today's standards -- not only do they have an "open" marriage, they openly practice that freedom in front of their friends, suggesting a swinging lifestyle that wouldn't become approachable as subject matter in films for another 30+ years. March and Sidney give fantastic performances, and Dorothy Arzner, one of the rare women directors of the time, takes a matter of fact approach that leaves behind the melodrama and sentimentality that might have blunted this same story's impact in the hands of someone else.
One of the most refreshing aspects of "Merrily We Go to Hell," and one of the most shocking, is that Sidney's character does not suffer nobly while we wait for March to see the error of his ways and come back to her a chastened man. Instead, Sidney starts to behave just like him, coming within a stone's throw of alcoholism herself, and doing her own share of philandering. In that way, the film is even a little progressive in its equal treatment of the genders, even if that equality is the equality of debauchery.
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